I remember reading also a letter from you stating that there were three means of relieving Washington.
I left New Berne, on the North Shore, at 2.45 in the afternoon of that day and arrived at the fleet, off Bath in Pamlico River, at 2.45 the following morning. (The 2nd, not the 4th.) General Spinola was in command there. I sought him immediately and talked with him of the situation of matters. He instantly showed me an order he had issued for landing some troops at daybreak for the purpose of storming the Hill's Point Battery. No reconnaissance had been made, and I did not see that his plank contemplated one, and asked him if he proposed to make it without any. He replied that he had no intention to attempt his plan without one and should make a reconnaissance first in the morning. This was done according to my detailed instructions. The officer in command of the party that made it reported verbally to my satisfaction. There were present about 1,600 men, artillery and infantry, and the two little armed steamers, Lockwood and Allison, and a sailing sloop with a heavy gun on board, which vessels vainly endeavored to interest the Hill's Point Battery.
I informed myself, by the examination of many different persons and by personal observation, of the precise nature of the situation of Hill's Point Battery and of all the ways by which it could be approached an all the places where landing was not naturally obstructed and where it was obstructed by nature. And, as enjoined so forcibly in my instructions, I permitted myself to be governed solely by my judgment in deciding that a landing could not be effected with any means at my command. Nothing has occurred to shake this opinion or modify it. Time and light all confirm it. When I had formed it fully I did all I could to make it immediately known to you and to General Palmer. At evening on the 3rd of April I left the river for New Berne, to go and return as quickly as possible, for the purpose of conferring with General Palmer. I carried the following dispatch with me to General Palmer, having written it to send:
PAMLICO RIVER, N. C., April 21, 1863.
Colonel SOUTHARD HOFFMAN,
Asst. Adjt. General, Eighteenth Army Corps, New Berne, N. C.:
COLONEL: The battery on Hill's Point is very strong. The gunboats we have (the Allison and Lockwood) make no impression on it. Its geometrical position, considered with the relative situation of the enemy's forces, make it unassailable except by gunboats.
Whether 5,000 troops landed on this river or marched from New Berne would be immaterial; no less would be able to reach the battery and get away again if unsuccessful.
Landing therefore with me is out of the question as things stand. Blount's Creek is impassable, and at the bridge is a camp of 1,000 men. There is no way of my command getting out of the triangle formed around the battery by the water and the road. I shall lie here and threaten, and if a strong force of gunboats comes the battery can be fully tested.
Large vessels (gunboats) cannot fired their way through the blockade, the buoys being up and the piles being cut off 2 feet under water, and while they are beleaguered the well-served eight guns (some Whitworths) could destroy them. I shall attempt to send some ammunition to Washington to-night is a mall boat, hugging the northern shore; but it will be a trifle, I know. The officers of the gunboats will consider well while near the battery the feasibility of one running through, but I feel confident they w ill decide adversely to the attempt. If General Dix sends, 5,000 men we may relieve Washington. If the large gunboats come they may succeed.
In order to remain here, coal is necessary. I send a tug to bring us a schooner containing it. As every steamer will be out of coal in thirty-two hours, whatever else fails let the tugs bring some coal-vessel.